VIDEO: Judge holds media court

'I've been on national TV hundreds of times,' Crawford says. Watch his 30-minute news conference here on demand video.
Register
Apr 9, 2014

It was a "perfectly fine" grand jury, visiting Judge Dale Crawford declared in comments Tuesday during a news conference he called at the Sandusky County Courthouse.

"I am here today because people keep asking questions and I keep hearing the wrong answers," Crawford said at the start of the 30-minute presentation about the deliberations of the grand jury that reviewed the Jacob Limberios death investigations.

WATCH THE NEWS CONFERENCE VIDEO IN BOX BELOW

Crawford said allegations had been made, and referred to the Sandusky Register without being specific about his concern. He "had great respect" for the media, Crawford said, but "somebody is on a witch hunt."

"I don't know where the witches are and I don't know why the hunt is on," Crawford said.

A reporter from the Fremont News-Messenger asked Crawford if he was directing those comments at the Register, which has not made any allegations or filed any complaint with Crawford or any other agency.

"I just wanted to verify, we're talking about the Sandusky Register, correct?" News-Messenger watchdog reporter Christina Smith asked.

"I'm not sure where that came from. I was shown an article today," the judge replied.

"Is it coming from the Sandusky Register?" Smith persisted.

"I get stuff online," Crawford replied. "As a matter of fact, I hadn't followed this until, you know, somebody called me and said there's an allegation and I didn't understand that. I think it was dealing with the clerk's office.

"The clerk's office did something wrong and then (attorney general prosecutor Matt) Donahue emailed me, I don't believe I talked with him on the phone, and (he) said he may be filing a motion and I said 'go ahead and file whatever motion you want.'"

The Register made a public records request Feb.18 for documents required by state law in jury, grand jury or special grand jury selections. The request was sent to Sandusky County Clerk of Courts Tracy Overmyer and copied to Crawford,

Overmyer initially responded that Crawford had sealed the records under a secret gag order. After consulting, the judge, the AG's office and Overmyer all later acknowledged, however, that Crawford did not have the authority to gag those records. The AG's office asked Crawford to review the record after it determined a violation likely occurred.

Donahue, on behalf of the AG's office, filed the motion March 25 informing Crawford that Overmyer failed to follow a requirement to give public notice about the Limberios grand jury. The motion mischaracterized the Register's role in the decision, inaccurately suggesting the newspaper made an allegation about the apparent violation that Donahue detailed in the motion.

Read the court motion

Donahue, who like Crawford, drove from Columbus to attend the news conference, asked the judge to set aside the violation, citing another section in the Ohio Revised Code and arguing there was no evidence any grand juror was biased during the deliberations.

— FOLLOW THE LEADER

Crawford seemed to be following the example the AG's office set in suggesting that headlines in the Register and inquiries to public officials and records requests equated to allegations despite efforts to dissuade them of that notion. Crawford referred to a March 21 article in the Register under the headline "Tainted grand jury," which the AG's office on Monday alleged was inaccurate.

The article detailed the violation of the requirement that Donahue alleged occurred, which "tainted," the word used in the headline, the grand jury. The AG's office did not respond after the Register replied to an email from spokesman Dan Tierney requesting a correction to the headline. The headline appeared correct, by the definition of the word, Tienrey was informed. He was also told the Register would review it with him again if the AG's office disagreed with that assessment.

Tierney made a spate of requests on Monday for the Register to review previous articles for potential inaccuracies.They came after the Register sent out specific additional requests earlier that day to court officials, the judge, county commissioners, Tierney and the AG's office, the county auditor and the county administrator. The emails asked public officials to respond to earlier requests.

Crawford praised Team Ray Technologies, a vendor that provided the "random draw" required by statute, saying the company has likely saved county taxpayers money by providing an alternative software service.

"By the way," Crawford began. "This is a very excellent jury process used in this county and also probably saved this county over the years hundreds of thousands of dollars using this as opposed to what most counties use called Court View."

Team Ray Technolgies, a company in Bellevue, operates a service described previously by the the firm's CEO Ryan Ray as a "joint venture" with the clerk of courts office. Team Ray has been paid more than $324,000 since January 2010 in at least two arrangements for services with the clerk's office and the adult probation department, but it does not appear there is a written contract between the county and TRT/Rockware.

Some of the public records requests sent to county officials on Monday were followups on previous requests for public records related to the contracts and payments to Team Ray. 

Read related articles about Team Ray contracts

Ryan Ray has not responded to inquiries, and Overmyer has ignored questions related to the payments.

— THANKING THE ACADEMY

As he closed his news conference, Crawford gestured to Donahue.

Judge: "You give it your 100 percent?

Donahue: "I did, yes, Your Honor."

Judge: "Clerk, did you give it your 100 percent."

Overmyer: "Absolutely."

Judge: "Maybe you made a mistake?"

Overmyer: "There was no bias."

Judge: "Let me ask you a question: Do you know every statute in the state of Ohio?"

Overmyer: "Absolutely not."

Judge: "Alright. You'll make mistakes again and I'll make mistakes again."

The judge reiterated again that he did not understand the complaint in Donahue's motion asking him to affirm the grand jury, clarifying comments he gave the News-Mesenger last month that he suggested during the news conference were not accurately or properly reported by the Register.

"I don't understand what the complaint is," Crawford said. "I still don't understand it. If somebody could explain it to me please do so."

Geoff Mearns, a former federal prosecutor who was provost at Cleveland State University before becoming president at Northern Kentucky University in 2012, told the Register the selection process violation detailed in Donahue's court motion is designed to protect the rights granted in the U.S. Constitution.

"The constitutional guarantee is intended to instill the public's confidence in the fair administration of justice. Any time that guarantee is not honored, there is a risk that public confidence will erode," Mearns said.

The News-Messenger's questions all related to the Register's reporting and Smith was the only reporter to ask Crawford anything during the news conference.

The Register has made numerous inquiries to the public officials involved, including several to Crawford. Crawford never responded directly, but did forward the newspaper a message by asking Overmyer to convey information. Many of those inquiries, to Crawford and others, remain pending and others were replied to but contained answers that seem non-responsive to the questions being asked.

Crawford was unable to say when he would rule on Donahue's motion to affirm the grand jury.

"I haven't written anything, because, quite frankly, uh, I will," he said. "It will appease some people's minds if I write something and put it in writing."

 Crawford complimented Smith during the exchange they shared.

"By the way, thank you for using that picture because I like that picture," Crawford told Smith. "I see my picture in the newspaper quite often."

Crawford and Doahue both were asked today to be guests on "Between the Lines," the Register's public affairs talk program. 

David Pepper, the presumptive Domocratic nominee running against Attorney General Mike DeWine in November, is the guest on BTL at 5:15 p.m. today. 

Watch the video of the news conference in the player below 

Original article, March 8, 2014: Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney inaccurately suggested the Register had made allegations or some sort of complaint that prompted Ohio Attorney General prosecutor Donahue to file a motion March 26 citing an irregularity in the selection process last year for the Limberios grand jury.

"The sources who made the allegations referenced in the motion are Andy Ouriel and Sandusky Register staff," Tierney wrote to the Register on Monday.

Reporter Ouriel nor the Register made any allegations, and that was reiterated to Tierney again Monday and earlier today. The Register is "not the source of the motion and is not responsible if information in it was misleading," Tierney was told.  

The Register did not, nor did any member of its staff, file any complaint or make any allegations. The Register also did not request the AG file a motion or instruct anyone with the AG's office to take any action.

Read the court motion

A public records request was made to Sandusky County Clerk of Courts Tracy Overmyer on Feb. 18 for public documents required in the fair and open grand jury selection statutes. The AG's office provided to the Register information it received from Overmyer in response to the records request.

Tierney became aware of the irregularity and other potential irregularities and he and Mike DeWine both were asked about those issues in recorded interviews. It was reiterated to both DeWine and Tierney that questions were not accusations or allegations, and the Register never asked the AG or any AG employee to take any action.

Tieney also stated on Monday that the headline "Grand jury tainted" over a story published March 21 in the Register and at sanduskyregister.com was inaccurate. He later appeared not to disagree with the Register's reply the irregularity represented a "taint" and the headline was accurate as written.

The "Tainted grand jury" news article detailed DeWine's motion to visiting Judge Dale Crawford that notified him of an irregularity. The motion asked Crawford to disregard it, citing a statute that addresses juror bias.

The fair and open statute in the Ohio Revised that wasn't observed — according to DeWine's motion — is designed to assure constitutional rights, according to Geoff Mearns, a former partner at Baker Hostetler in Cleveland, former provost at Cleveland State University and now president of Northern Kentucky University.

A violation of the public notice requirement is separate and distinct from the sub-section cited in the motion, Mearns said, which concerns bias or perceived bias of the grand jury among other issues. Tierney said prosecutors had no evidence that any grand juror displayed bias during the proceedings and deliberations.

It's unclear why Crawford asked for the news conference and it's unusual for a judge to make such a public statement about a pending matter before the court. Crawford did the same thing a couple of weeks ago when he gave an "exclusive" interview to another newspaper and appeared to refer to the motion from DeWine as a complaint.

The Fremont News-Messenger incorrectly stated the motions was in response to a complaint from the Register, but the Register did not make a complaint. Crawford told the News-Messenger: “It makes no sense to me where the complaint is,” Crawford said, according to the article. “If you find out what the problem is, I’d love to know.”

He also told the reporter that he had “been very busy,” and “quite frankly, it’s not something that’s at the top of my list to be doing right now."

On Friday he said he would probably review the motion over the weekend, but Kimmet — who announced the news conference — said Monday he did not know if a hearing on the motion had been scheduled.

Tierney also suggested previous coverage of the judge's comments in the Register were misleading and inaccurate. After an initial review, the Register determined the statements were not misleading but continues with Tierney other concerns he raised on Monday.

One item in the "Tainted grand jury" article not previously addressed was found to be incorrect after a review with Tierney. A grand jury called in December 2012 to review an Ohio AG investigation about the alleged sexual exploitation of a 21-year-old mentally ill inmate at the Sandusky County Jail was not a special grand jury.

That grand jury and the special Limberios grand jury both were no-billed. 
 
Judges with pending cases or motions normally do not hold news conferences. Judicial code puts limitations on the practice. 

A judge "shall not make any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court, or make any nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing," the code states. 

The only allegation that has been made is the statement by DeWine's office in the pending court motion the public notice portion of the fair and open statutes was not followed. The motion does not address other potential irregularities.

*

The Register has reported the difficulties numerous families have experienced with Sandusky County officials and has discussed those concerns with Attorney General DeWine in detail, asking questions families have raised. Click on the links below to read more. 

• Death of Lee Naus

• Isabel Cordle

• Trooper's sex lesson

• Stabbed, beaten burned & zapped

• Bryan Jones

• Limberios shooting saga

• Craig Burdine

• Sexploited jail inmate

Read the Ohio Revised Code statutes governing grand jury selection: 

 

Comments

Babo

Age requirement: The section preceding it clearly states that no judge may be elected or appointed if over 70 years of age upon election or appointment. The section you cite was added to this section and doesn't excuse retired judges from the age limitation under the plain meaning of the Constitution.

What is the plain meaning of "retired"? It means someone has reached the age where they qualify for retirement benefits. Judges voluntarily "retire" like anyone else in state positions when they apply for benefits after having served enough years to qualify. That often means they are in their fifties or sixties if they voluntarily retire. If they are over 70 they are forced to retire by the age limitation. The people of the State have stated clearly that they do not wish elderly people to sit in judgment and to interpret the section cited as allowing the Chief Justice to ignore the Constitution violates equal protection and the clear meaning of the age limitation. The Chief Justice IMO is also improperly legislating from the bench by creating her own set of rules.

Re Oath: Their oath was taken as a judge of a particular judgeship in a particular county or for an appellate court and for a term of office. When the term ends, the office and oath are terminated. Please direct me to enabling laws that created new judgeships at the Supreme Court of Ohio. If the oaths carry over why do judges and justices upon re election to their seats take new oaths of office?

Also you seem to be suggesting that any oath would then carry over into the future until death. So a juror takes an oath or a witness takes an oath and it carries over into perpetuity? Of course the oaths do not carry over, the oaths are limited to the term of office or case.

You keep referring to Ohio law and cases that were decided either before the change to the Ohio Constitution creating "retired judges" without the enabling legislation or cases that were not decided on US and Ohio Constitutional requirement and or public policy grounds. As you should know any action that violates the US or Ohio Constitutions or is entered into without jurisdiction is void ab initio. I contend because the retired visiting judge scheme in Ohio violates the US Constitution, retired judges acted without jurisdiction and their acts are all void, not merely voidable.

How would I change the system to make it better?
1)I would not allow any judge over 70 years to act as a retired judge but limit it to those judges who voluntarily retired after serving enough time to earn their retirement benefits. There are many qualified men and women who can ably serve who are under 70 and there is no need to ignore the Constitutional mandate.
2) I would restrict retired judges to serving in the same jurisdiction in which they were elected. Judges who were merely appointed just prior to retirement would not be eligible.
3) Every retired judge would have to meet the same requirements of elected judges, to wit: 1) Bond 2) Oath and 3) Commission 4) under 70
4) Compensation would consist of the difference between their retirement benefits and the hourly rate of a judge to diminish profit seeking and intentionally drawing out cases for financial benefit.
5) Parties could object to the assignment of any retired judge and request a sitting judge from an adjacent county in the event of conflicts.
6) Retired judges would not be allowed to oversee, hear or preside over any criminal cases including grand juries, nor may they act as Administrative judges in any county.
7) Assignments of retired judges should be random as the Superintendence rules require of sitting judges and a retired judge should not be utilized until every judge in a county has recused themselves with a clearly stated reason for recusal.
8) All complaints concerning retired judges should be open and available to the public and should be handled separately from the grievance procedures for sitting judges to ensure some accountability to the public.
9) No retired judge may hear cases and have an ownership stake in a private judging or mediation company. All retired judges who own or owned a private judging company will disclose their client lists upon demand of any party to a matter.

Finally, I do not accept your statement that judges are overworked and overwhelmed. No other office claims the need for retired people to cover for them because they are overwhelmed and over worked. For example there are no retired visiting prosecutors, or retired visiting police officers, or retired visiting commissioners. Your point asking if taxpayers will pay for back up judges is laughable as we already are paying for retired judges without any actual facts demonstrating that sitting judges are overworked.

IMO, there is very strong public perception that the retired judge system leads to unfair adjudications by promoting politics over justice resulting in miscarriages of justice that are not corrected without years of expensive litigation that the majority cannot afford. For that reason alone it needs to be eliminated or drastically overhauled.

ContraryAnn

Where is the press conference video? Only on the N-M?

ContraryAnn

"Check back here for video coverage and updates"

ContraryAnn

Watched it on NM. Missed any mention of the 'accidental' finding by the GJ.

Blue.Streaker

This is the account thinking people will read and remember:

http://www.thenews-messenger.com...

The rest of you conspiracy-mongers can howl at the moon.

This case is OVER.

Stop It

"This case is OVER."

Says YOU.

Peninsula Pundit

You do realize how pompous you sound when you post comments like this, don't you?
You, like a couple others who have since been shamed into silence, sound like you are much closer to this case than you disclose.
I don't care about your name, just what is your dog in this fight?

Matt Westerhold

Just for the record, Blue.Streaker, SR news artiicle are read by many more people — up to ten times as many — who read News-Messenger articles like the one you posted. It doesn't hurt to post it, however, although this one, and others, incorrectly state the Register's role in the AG's decision to file a court motion concerning the grang jury selection.

my oh my

Hmm ironic on how quiet the media was at this conference when it was time to shut up or put up...

Blue.Streaker

It was the SR's chance to ask questions. Where were they?

It reminded me of when one John Brewer recently raised a lot of fuss about Rhonda Damschroder running for Rex's seat, and loudly demanded a hearing. Then he walked out because he was all bluff and no substance.

The shame is it demonstrates what the SR is really about. Insults and complaints, but no substance. When provided the opportunity to put up or shut up, it chooses an embarrassing silence.

Oh well, back to publishing ads for the Super Lawyers.

Peninsula Pundit

And now you stand in defense of a 'placeholder' election?
You are a fine piece of work.

DickTracey

Hey Blue.Streaker, Ricky called, he wants to know if you wanna come over and watch movies again.

Blue.Streaker

Thanks for proving my point. Insults and complaints. No substance.

Matt Westerhold

The Register already has asked dozens of questions, Blue.Streaker, and put those questions in writing. There was no reason to expect Crawford was going to be more forthcoming in sound bites during a 30-minute news conference we were given just a day's notice about, and generally, court issues are usually dealt with in court filings and during court hearings, not at news conferences. Hope that assists your understanding.  

Blue.Streaker

In the news conference yesterday Judge Crawford said the Sandusky Register has never attempted to reach him or ask him any questions.

You say above that "The Register has already asked dozens of questions....in writing."

Then you criticize him for not being forthcoming in the news conference.

It sounds like you are being crafty in trying to make it sound like he refused to answer your questions, when actually you never asked him any.

Right?

Matt Westerhold

No, Blue.Streaker, that's not correct. 

Blue.Streaker

Oh?

Matt Westerhold

I like that about you, Blue.Streaker, your name and the berevity of your commentary. Look, the judge has had the court motion for what, three weeks? It's a question he's been asked to answer. It's been more than two years. Enough said.  

Babo

I'm guessing Dale Crawford does not want to rule on the issue and provide a document that could be challenged on due process, equal protection and oath of office grounds in federal court through a declaratory judgment action

Matt Westerhold

It would seem the "time to shut up or put up" happened quite some time ago, my oh my, and generally, the normal place where issues are adjudicated is during a court hearing, not a news conference. Public officials have had an extensive amount of time already to review the inquiries sent to them and provide a coherent response to the questions that have been asked not constrained by time limits or sound bites. 

sandusky2012

who said ignorance is no excuse for the law?

Truth2u

His ARROGANCE is beyond belief, the entire County's judicial system needs a good accounting. NO CITIZEN could offer these excuses to a Court without being accountable with lectures, fines or incarceration; but this Judge makes excuses for HIS court for not knowing the laws for a MURDER TRIAL? Who is in charge? IT'S ULTIMATELY CRAWFORD THAT IS IN CHARGE AND ITS ALL HIS FAULT! HE was the Captain of the ship but now BLAMES THE PRESS! I can only imagine what goes on behind the scenes of a less important trial.

He asked for someone to tell him whats the problem.

OK JUDGE, REPLY TO CHARGES THAT THESE MISTAKES WERE ILLEGAL, we the PUBLIC would have to give answers to YOUR court if something was wrong!

This judge is tainted and by his own merit, not the Registers. Cover ups by lying there were gag orders, ARROGANCE in telling reporters he's busy and he doesn't have time to make certain that JUSTICE PREVAILS.

Good reporting Register, I'm so sick of these arrogant and proud 'Esquires' and "Honorable's who think themselves as Lords and untouchable. I know judges who cheat on their wives multiple times and they sit on the bench judging others? Hypocrites is too good of a word for many of them, and those GOOD judges sadly are guilty by association with such the likes...

And dont forget the arrogance of the Coroner not chaning the death certificate, Crawford has time for a press conference but not enough time to order the Coroner to change the certificate? If he can then again Crawford should be given his waling papers.

DickTracey

Indeed, judges are cheaters because they have that ROCKSTAR mentality. They think they are invincible.

Alcoholism also runs rampant among judges.

Remember the judge who beat his daughter with the belt for 15 minutes, caught on video?

I like our local Huron County judge,that got busted at the known gay rest stop! He comes walking out of the woods with his shirt off, all disheveled! Very honorable!

Ctwhalers

Crawford is blind like the rest not see the truth.register has been asking questions but they never want to answer. So they did nit need to ask questions cause they already had the questions.

Manowar

The grand jury met for 10 days, heard testimony from 55 witnesses and reviewed 286 marked exhibits, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Crawford said it was the longest-running grand jury in Sandusky County’s history.

Crawford said he called the conference to answer media questions on the case and address inaccurate articles and headlines regarding the case, specifically citing items in the Sandusky Register.

“It is clear that somebody is on a witch hunt,” he said. “I don’t know where the witches are or why the hunt is on.

Here we go people...only thing missing here are the weapons of mass destruction.

The SR may be doing a good job of keeping some public officials on their toes. Oh and swaying public opinion. But that's about all they are doing. OH HUM!

holysee

wow. arrogance fascinating riveting revolting

holysee

"watchdog reporter Christina Smith" laugh out loud!!!!!!
(lol not good enough)

Julie R.

The judge asked Overmyer: "Maybe you made a mistake?" He then asked: "Let me ask you a question: Do you know every statute in the state of Ohio?" Overmyer responds: "Absolutely not."

Duh, wait a minute here, Mr. Judge. She might not know every statute in the state of Ohio but shouldn't she at least know the ones governing her own office?

The Judge then says: "Alright. You'll make mistakes again and I'll make mistakes again."

Duh. Whatever happened to "there's no excuse for ignorance of the law?" We all know if it was one of us common ordinary citizens, that's what the judge would have said to us!

Julie R.

This visiting judge Dale Crawford sounds so much like Erie County's favorite retired visiting judge Joseph Cirigliano they could be twin brothers!

witch hunter

Someone went to sandusky Co.court house for the press release of Judge Dale Crawford and the A.G.'s office and all I got from it was this cool new Idea for a screen name for the sandusky register blogs "witch hunter"

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